PINEHURST: Defending champion Justin Rose has not won since capturing last year’s US Open title, but the confident Englishman is getting sage advice this week from a couple of Pinehurst experts.
Rose played a practice round while joined by 81-year-old Willie McRae, the longest-serving caddie in Pinehurst history.
“His ability to read long range shots and really know the rub of the green and the terrain was very, very useful,” Rose said.
And Rose’s putting coach, David Orr, lives just down the road from the course where the 114th US Open will begin on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
“He definitely knows the golf course,” Rose said. “He has been valuable from that perspective.”
Rose spent three extra days at Pinehurst earlier this month after missing the cut at the Memorial, soaking in the history of a course he had never seen before.
“Could turn out to be a blessing,” Rose said of failing to reach the weekend at the key US Open warm-up.
“It gives you time to walk around the clubhouse, soak up some of the history. It makes you excited about the venue. For me, that’s as important as learning the golf course.”
McRae caddied for such legends as Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen as well as for four US Presidents and provided Rose a storyteller’s sense of the layout’s legacy.
“Willie was just great fun to have out there. He was part of the Pinehurst experience for me,” Rose said. “Caddied here for 71 years. Just amazing. It was just a special opportunity. His knowledge on the golf course is unbelievable.”
Rose praised the work with Orr to improve his putting as he tries to regain the form that saw him win last year at Merion.
“He has been a very valuable addition to the team,” Rose said. “The work we have done is going to pay off. It has paid off. We built a stroke we knew would work.
“It’s very easy to chase perfection in this game and that doesn’t always make you a better player. It’s understanding what you have and how to deal with it.”
Rose has also learned to appreciate what life has brought him, a spirit on display when Merion let him and 10 buddies play the course, setting up the final hole as it was on Sunday last year so everyone could try his key approach.
“That was just a really truly great moment,” Rose said. “It’s in the last few months I realized what I have achieved and it’s time to embrace it, enjoy it, and let that be the strength for me to go on and win more.”